Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A "Reverse Version of the Scopes Monkey Trial" in Ohio

An Ohio town has been divided for more than a year over the case of a school science teacher who has kept a bible on his desk, posted the ten commandments in his classroom, asked students to refer to the bible for science research, and taught that homosexuality is a sin.

The teacher's supporters are claiming he is being persecuted for his religious conviction. The school board has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for a hearing on the teacher's case. Some residents have even sold their house and moved.

From the NY Times article:

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.

The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

“Freshwater’s supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,” said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.”

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